No. 556 . 11 April 2012 
ArchitectureWeek

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The Saltzman Farmhouse by Margaret McCurry exemplifies her compelling approach to blending high culture with architectural neo-vernacular. Photo: Johansen Krause/Courtesy ORO editions

Distilled Farmhouse

by Margaret McCurry and Stanley Tigerman

Compelled by sentimentality and the knowledge that the former owners (a farm family) would be retained to work the land, a Chicago couple commissioned architect Margaret McCurry to convert a 26-acre (11-hectare) farm in Galien, Michigan, into an expanded family compound while preserving as much as was practical of the original farmhouse.

This modest one-and-a-half-story structure was crudely constructed. Metal clapboard covered the original simulated-brick asphalt shingles, and the eight-foot (2.4-meter) ceilings on the first floor were oppressive.

The land rose at the rear of the house, where assorted outbuildings in varying stages of disrepair peppered the landscape. The most disreputable crowded close to the farmhouse, blocking expansion to the rear. After serious soul-searching, it was agreed that these crumbling structures would be taken down and the most reusable, which were aligned along an east-west axis, would be saved.

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The Saltzman Farmhouse is sited with barns and outbuildings on a 26-acre working farm in Galien, Michigan. Photo: Courtesy ORO editions

The most reasonable reuse of the low-ceilinged existing farmhouse was as a bedroom wing. The old house was stripped down to its original two-by-four wood frame and new, symmetrically disposed window openings were created. Two guest bedrooms with baths were designed to fill the first floor, as lofts with accompanying baths for grandchildren were constructed in the attic.

A new master bedroom was "hyphened" from the main house by a flat-roofed section that gave one loft a deck and access to a playhouse in the bedroom attic. A variance permitted the four-foot (1.2-meter) extension of a porch into the front yard, engaging the existing gable.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Distillations: The Architecture of Margaret McCurry by Margaret McCurry, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, ORO editions.

 
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